Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Didn't I Just Say That?

HuffPo has (sorta’) changed its tune about the story I mentioned yesterday regarding Republican Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll: While yesterday the front-page link to the story described the sexual allegations against Carroll as “shocking,” today the link highlights “GOPer’s Strange Response To Sex Scandal Accusation” [emphasis added].

Well, duh! Didn’t I say her giggling, smiling, “folks who look like me don’t do that” response seemed odd? I would expect anger (if the accusations are unequivocally false), or steadfastly Clintonesque evasiveness (if the accusations are unequivocally true), or something… but I would not expect lighthearted non-denial denials. It makes me wonder if the real story is something in between unequivocally false and unequivocally true.

 It would be reckless to speculate about Carroll’s actual case, because all I know about it is what’s in this one news story (and the brief local TV report that was apparently its source), but let’s imagine a parallel, but purely hypothetical case: Imagine a public official who is bisexual but married to an opposite-sex spouse, and who engages in same-sex sexual activity with the spouse’s full knowledge and agreement. That is, imagine that they’re in what Dan Savage would call a “monogamish” relationship.¹ In such a case, facts similar to those contained in the “accusations” leveled at Carroll might not be scandalous at all… except, of course, to moralistic prudes, of which there is likely no shortage among Florida Republicans, nor among conservative, churchgoing southern black folks, either.

Whatever the actual facts are in Carroll’s case, awareness that the truth was potentially embarrassing in a social and political context, but not actually damaging in a legal or ethical sense, might conceivably lead to responses with the tone and tenor she displays in those soundbites.

Regardless of any speculation, though, it seems to me that there are only two questions in this case that are legitimately matters of public concern:
  • Did Carroll commit sexual harassment in a public workplace? This, of course, hinges on questions of consent and coercion and is not certain, even assuming the alleged sexual relationship actually took place.
  • Did Carroll retaliate against an employee who possessed potentially embarrassing information, as her accuser claims is the case.
Everything else — what kind of sex she likes, who she’s had sex with, even whether she’s broken any promises to her husband — is nobody’s business but the individuals directly involved.

 ¹ Notwithstanding the reports we heard during the Republican presidential nomination contest that Newt Gingrich had tried to retroactively legitimize years of marital infidelity by asking his second wife for an after-the-fact “open marriage,” some couples really do negotiate these things honestly, and in advance.

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